A far-Right TV commentator tipped to become the next President of France caused outrage today by pointing an assault rifle at journalists and saying: ‘Back off!’.
Eric Zemmour, the 63-year-old independent with a notorious hatred of the press, carried out the stunt at the Milipol arms fair in Paris on Wednesday morning.
In scenes posted on social media, Mr Zemmour can be seen brandishing the weapon, without making any safety checks whatsoever.
Eric Zemmour (pictured speaking at an event on Tuesday), the 63-year-old independent with a notorious hatred of the press, carried out the stunt at the Milipol arms fair in Paris on Wednesday morning
He then mumbles ‘Are you joking? Push up, back off!’ as he points the gun – one used by French police special forces – at watching journalists.
Citizenship Minister Marlène Schiappa immediately attacked Mr Zemmour, accusing him of gross irresponsibility.
‘Aiming at journalists with a weapon and telling them to “back off!” Is not funny,’ Ms Schiappa tweeted.
‘It is horrifying. Especially after having seriously said that he wanted to “reduce the power of the media.”
‘In a democracy, press freedom is no joke and should never be threatened.’
Zemmour – a former journalist himself – responded by calling Schiappa an ‘imbecile’ and accusing her of ‘trying to whip up a grotesque controversy.’
Mr Zemmour’s stunt led to those watching to point out basic safety procedures, which everybody should observe when handling a firearm.
Rule 1 is that ‘A weapon must always be treated as if it is loaded’ and Rule 2 is ‘never point or let the barrel of a gun point at something you don’t want to destroy.’
Mr Zemmour has not officially stated that he will stand for the French Presidency in April, but polls show he has huge popularity among the far-Right.
In scenes posted on social media, Mr Zemmour can be seen brandishing a sniper rifle in the direction of journalists at a Paris gun fair, without making any safety checks whatsoever. Pictured: Still grabs from a video of the incident a Paris gun fair showing Zemmour looking down the scope of the rifle before pointing it at the press on Wednesday
He has two convictions for spreading hatred against ethnic and religious minorities, and regularly blames immigrants for causing all the problems in modern France.
Marine Le Pen, of the far-Right National Rally party, was runner up to Emmanuel Macron in the May 2017 presidential election, but her vote could be eclipsed by Mr Zemmour next year.
Mr Zemmour is an admirer of former U.S. President Donald Trump, and positions himself as anti-elite, anti-immigration champion.
He frequently criticises the ‘fake news’ mainstream media, despite frequently appearing on TV and writing articles and books.
Like Trump, he has long criticised ‘establishment’ media and hopes to build a political coalition of white working-class voters and wealthy conservatives.
Beyond the media, Mr Zemmour cites France’s justice system and ethnic minorities as ‘enemies’, calling for their powers to be checked.
Polls currently show Macron ahead in the first round of the presidential election, besting two far-right candidates, Rassemblement National leader Le Pen and maverick Zemmour, whose surge in popularity has shifted the election’s dynamics.
Polls currently show France’s President Emmanuel Macron (pictured in Poitiers, western France, on October 8, 2021) ahead in the first round of the presidential election
A recent poll showed Zemmour eclipsing traditional French far-right leader Marine Le Pen (pictured left). In the race for the LR ticket, surveys show Michel Barnier (pictured right) trails Xavier Bertrand
A recent poll showed Zemmour eclipsing traditional French far-right leader Marine Le Pen in the first round of next year’s election, but later losing to centrist President Emmanuel Macron.
In the race for the LR ticket, surveys show Michel Barnier trails Xavier Bertrand, a centre-right ex-cabinet minister, and by a narrower margin Valerie Pecresse, president of the greater Paris region, both of whom quit LR after Macron’s win in 2017.
However, Barnier’s popularity is growing among the rank and file LR members who will vote for their party’s nominee, and see him – also an ex-cabinet minister – as an erstwhile loyalist as he never left the party.